RTW Diaries: Month Three

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That's right, another month of travel already wrapped up and tucked away in my memory. People often tell you that time goes by faster the older you get — but I'm convinced that it goes by doubly fast when you're traveling.

Cliffs of Moher

Check out what I got up to during my third month of traveling:

Month Three

Countries visited: 4 — Poland, England, Ireland, and Northern Ireland

Cities visited: 8 — Warsaw, Krakow, London, Dublin, Killarney, Dingle, Cork, Belfast

 

Favorite big city: London

I didn't visit a ton of huge cities this month; London was by far the biggest. And, honestly, I don't care how many times I've been there — I love London to pieces. During this visit, I got to catch up with a bunch of friends (from my travels, from home, from my blogging life), and saw some parts of the city that I've never visited before.

London

Favorite small city: Dingle

I got to visit a lot of small cities in Ireland during my two weeks there. And while I enjoyed all of them, the west-coast town of Dingle was definitely my favorite. The colorful streets popped even under cloudy skies, and we happened to be there during the annual Dingle Food Festival.

Dingle

Biggest surprise: Warsaw

Not knowing what to expect from Poland, I can honestly say I was blown away by Warsaw. After being pretty much completely destroyed  by the Germans after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, the city is actually a relatively “new” one. It is still growing and developing and figuring out what kind of city it's going to be. I loved its wide streets, big green parks, and history around every corner. Warsaw gave off a vibe similar to the one I felt in Berlin, and therefore I was won over almost immediately.

Warsaw Old Town

Most impressive natural wonder: Giant's Causeway

My first trip to Northern Ireland was a short one. But it included a visit to one of the most amazing (and perplexing) natural wonders I have ever seen — the Giant's Causeway. Formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of basalt columns that form step-like formations leading from a cliff into the sea. The weirdest thing is how perfectly-shaped the columns appear. Mother Nature sure is amazing.

Giant's Causeway

Most interesting tour: Black taxi tour in Belfast

Also in Northern Ireland, I took a short black taxi tour around Belfast to learn about the city's “Troubles.” From the 1960s right on through the 1990s, the city was basically an active war zone in a religiously-charged battle. And, even though the violence has largely subsided, the tension still remains. Walls and gates still divide Belfast, and it was fascinating to learn about the city from someone who has lived there all his life.

Belfast

Most emotionally draining experience: Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau

Thanks to my interest in “dark tourism” and the fact that I was already going to be in Poland, I knew that I had to visit a concentration camp. And since Auschwitz-Birkenau is close to Krakow, I knew I had to make myself go there. It was by no means a pleasant experience, nor one that I would ever want to repeat. But, nevertheless, I'm glad I went. Tours of concentration camps are not supposed to be happy oo pleasant — they're supposed to make you sad and disgusted and determined to never forget what happened during WWII.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Most beautiful church: St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow

From the outside, St. Mary's doesn't necessarily look like much. But inside? The basilica on Krakow's main market square is absolutely stunning on the inside. With golds and blues and blush pinks and a detailed altar piece that is opened with pomp and circumstance at noon each day, this is one church definitely worth visiting.

St. Mary's Basilica

Most unexpected church: Salt cathedral

What if I told you that there exists a cathedral made completely from rock salt, right down to the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling? Would you believe me? Well, I hope so, because it does exist inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland. The salt mine has been in operation since the 13th century, though today it's mostly a tourist attraction. The crown jewel of the mine is Saint Kinga's Chapel, pictured below.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Most random place I visited: The National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin

When I heard that there was a leprechaun museum in Dublin, I knew I was going to have to visit it. The museum was a bit strange and definitely kitschy, but with an emphasis on storytelling and a room filled with giant furniture that you can climb around on, it was a fun way to spend an hour.

Leprechaun Museum

Most touristy thing I did: Kiss the Blarney Stone and cross Abbey Road

This one is a tie. In Ireland I kissed the famous Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, and in London I took a Beatles tour and got a photo at the famous Abbey Road crossing. In my bare feet, of course. Both things are super touristy, and yet I don't even care — sometimes the touristy stuff is the most fun.

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Abbey Road

Silliest photo I took: This one at Platform 9 3/4

I've been to King's Cross once before to be a Harry Potter nerd — but that was before the Platform 9 3/4 cart was a full-scale production. Now you can put on a scarf and have actors and photographers help you get the perfect “magical” shot. I went with an Aussie friend of mine and laughed so hard my stomach hurt afterwards.

Platform 9 3/4

Place I most enjoyed re-visiting: Dublin

I'd been to Dublin once before, about 6 years ago. On that visit, I went to all the top sites: the Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar, Kilmainham Gaol, etc. This time, I went back to Dublin for a blogging conference. But then I decided to stick around and see more of the city. I loved re-discovering Dublin, and even uncovering some new corners.

Trinity College Old Library

Place I was overly excited about seeing: This Welsh town

When my train from Holyhead to London stopped at this station, I couldn't help but be excited. I can't even begin to pronounce the name, but it's the second-longest place name in the world!

Wales

Favorite museum: Neon Museum

Warsaw has some unique and interesting museums. The history nerd in me enjoyed spending an afternoon at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. But the I-enjoy-weird-stuff part of me loved the Neon Museum the most. This tiny, hard-to-find museum is filled with old neon signs that used to adorn Warsaw's streets during the Soviet era. It's really fun to photograph.

Neon Museum in Warsaw

Favorite sunset: My last night in Dublin

Because, who doesn't love a colorful sunset over a river?

Dublin sunset

Here are some other stats:

Flights: 4 (Krakow to London, London to Dublin, and 2 flights to an as-yet-unannounced destination)

Trains: 3 (Warsaw to Krakow, and 2 trains from Holyhead, Wales to London)

Ferries: 1 (Dublin to Holyhead)

Splurges: I basically had to buy an entire autumn wardrobe for the last month of my travels. Poland, England, and Ireland get chilly in September/October. Who knew?

Photos taken: 1,108

Giant's Causeway

Where to next?

I have made some big changes to my RTW plans in the past month. But I'm not quite ready to reveal what those changes are. Some of you will have already figured them out, of course, but for the rest of you: stay tuned for another RTW Diaries post next week, or subscribe to my newsletter to hear the news first!

What's up on the blog?

I've been busy this past month. Between traveling and changing my plans and attending a conference and going on a press trip, I've fallen even further behind. I'm now about 2 months behind blog-wise. Oops! But with weeks of staying in one place ahead of me, I fully intend to get caught up!

In the meantime, here's what I've written recently about my travels through Europe:

London Eye

——

Let me know what you thought of this monthly summary in the comments!

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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29 Comments on “RTW Diaries: Month Three

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  1. What a month! It was lovely to meet you at TBEX, even though it was only brief. I also think I definitely need to get myself to Dingle now considering how many times I’ve been to Ireland!

      Meetings at TBEX are always too brief! Hope you enjoyed it, though. And YES to going to Dingle sometime!

    Congrats on three months abroad! I’m flying home from my own three month European odyssey. So cool that you got to Giant’s Causeway! I hoped to make it to Ireland and Northern Ireland but it wasn’t in the cards! Hopefully next time around 🙂

      Ireland is awesome, and Northern Ireland is a place I definitely want to return to someday. Congrats on your own 3-month adventure!

    That is a busy month! I love Poland, although I’ve only been to Krakow so far, your photo of Warsaw makes me want to go so bad. I’m also slightly ashamed to say that I’ve still never been to Ireland/ N. Ireland, even though I’ve lived right across the water, in Scotland my whole life. I loved the summary, good luck for month four!

      I would highly recommend Warsaw! (And Ireland/N. Ireland, too, of course – you’re so close! Definitely pop over sometime!)

    I’m very glad Poland and especially Warsaw made such a good impression on you and I hope I helped you a tiny little bit feel that way 😉 you know you’re always welcome to return here!

      You most definitely helped, Kami! (And, for the record, I’m pretty sure I liked Warsaw better than Krakow!)

        even if I love Kraków a lot I was secretly hoping for that 😉

    I’m so happy I got to see you in Ireland!!

      I’m so happy, too! Hopefully we’ll get to catch up again soon – perhaps even in New Zealand!

    Wow, it sounds like you had a jam packed month. I love that photo of Dingle! I’ll have to visit next time I’m in the area.

      Not as jam-packed as previous months, but yes, I definitely kept busy! I honestly don’t know any other way to travel… haha.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to visit Krakow next fall.

    What a month! That Platform 9 3/4 photo is hilarious! And I love all the churches you visited — you gave me some really great ideas for future trips (or better: my long-overdue trip to Poland!). It was great to meet you in Dublin!

      Haha, I LOVE that Platform 9 3/4 photo, despite the fact that I look deranged. 😉

      Definitely get yourself to Poland! I’m really looking forward to writing more about it.

    It sounds like you had a lot of fun. I would love to visit Ireland one day. I have been to Dublin but would love to explore the rest of the country. haha that photo at Platform 9 3/4 is so funny. I had no idea you could do that there. I definitely want a photo like that next time I’m in London. The salt cathedral is simply stunning !

      Ireland has SO much to see, despite it being quite small. I’m glad I got to see more this time around!

    What’s really great about Poland is how it didn’t have to turn out that way. If you go over the border to Belarus, Russia, and other flattened-by-World-War-II regions, Stalinist architecture is often the ONLY architecture. That’s obviously not to say that these countries are the same or anything like that (and the brutal Stalinist architecture IS part of their history over there), but if you’re rebuilding a country from scratch, it could have been incredibly boring. Poland didn’t do that. Everything they did was a loving recreation of their old heritage, and it’s great. The whole country is adorable.

      Definitely! Though, to be fair, not all of Poland’s adorable cities are rebuilt. Krakow, for example, was never bombed during the war! But I agree that it’s great that the country (and especially Warsaw) tried to hold on to that old heritage.

    From the look of these photos, you had an amazing time this past month! Looking forward to hear more!

      Yes I had a great time! Not as many destinations, but still plenty of adventures.

    Great recap. St. Mary’s Basilica reminds me a lot of Notre Dame Basilica-very plain and basic on the outside but utterly stunning and vibrant on the inside.

      The best churches to visit are the ones that take you by surprise like this one! I’ve been to plenty that have been the other way around – very impressive on the outside, but pretty normal on the inside.

    Ireland looks so beautiful! I can not wait until I get to see it for myself! Safe travels.

      It’s definitely up there on my list of beautiful countries!

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